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Diary of a Fantasy Madman
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Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 12 October 2014 00:00
Just in case you haven’t fallen asleep from the Old Duck’s Friday column, maybe this one will do the trick! After taking a couple of weeks to unwind from what was an intense yet rewarding 2014 Tout Wars season, I figured that now would be a good time to look back on the year as a whole and evaluate my performance objectively. I spend a lot of time, probably way too much time, second-guessing my in-season decisions. So it’s kind of refreshing to say that this season, my good decisions far outnumbered my bad ones, and though it would have been nice to win the Mixed Auction Tout Wars league, finishing in third place out of 15 teams is an accomplishment in itself. I won’t bore you with my full roster and all that stuff. You can head over to the Tout Wars site for that information. Instead, I’ll keep it simple.

 

BEST DRAFT DAY PURCHASES

Nelson Cruz ($10) – My hope was 25 homers and 85 RBI. I got 40 homers and 108 RBI. If Cruz re-signs with the Orioles (which sounds likely), I could see 30 home runs and 100 RBI in 2015, health permitting. But would I be willing to shell out close to $30 for him, banking on a repeat performance? Not quite.

Jose Altuve ($16) – By now, it’s safe to say that Altuve is officially one of “my guys.” He’s my favorite player to watch and my favorite player to own. Expecting him to bat .341 again and swipe 56 bags might be unreasonable, but a .300 average to go along with 40 steals and around 100 runs scored (the young Astros lineup will only get better) is perfectly reasonable. It will cost at least $30 to roster him next year, and I will seriously consider taking the plunge.

Denard Span ($1) – I’ve always felt that Span was undervalued in fantasy, but I didn’t see this coming, particularly the .302 average and 31 steals. How much it will take to secure Denard’s services in March remains to be seen, and although I’m open to drafting him again, I probably won’t go much higher than ten bucks, which means I probably won’t be owning him.

Doug Fister ($9) – Strikeouts was my weakest category, and a big reason why is because I penciled in Fister for around 160 whiffs over 200 innings but received only 98 punchouts over 164 frames. But his record, ERA and WHIP were all Cy Young caliber. Look for his strikeout rate to recover in his second season in the Senior Circuit. He will be undervalued yet again.

Mark Melancon ($2) – In deeper mixed leagues, I usually shy away from drafting a third closer, opting instead to save some money and take an elite setup man who has a legitimate chance to assume stopper duties at some point during the first half of the season. Let’s just say that things worked out rather nicely with Melancon. Count on more of the same from him in 2015.

WORST DRAFT DAY PURCHASES

Ryan Braun ($38) – 19 homers, 81 RBI, 68 runs scored, 11 steals and a .324 OBP isn’t a bad stat line. But it’s more like a $15 stat line, at best. Braun could bring back some profit next year if his recent thumb procedure proves to be a success and results in a power restoration. But honestly, I’m tired of this guy.

Chase Headley ($15) – Something in between his 2012 and 2013 stats was the idea. Instead, we saw further regression. Headley’s hitting did improve a bit following his mid-season trade to the Yankees. If he stays with the Bombers next year, I’ll be tempted to throw a few bucks his way, especially in OBP leagues.

Desmond Jennings ($18) – Jennings used to be one of “my guys.” Not anymore. So disgusted with his sub-par performance, I traded him right around the All-Star break, which turned out to be a wise move, and not only because he missed the entire month of September due to injury. Will we ever see the former top prospect truly break out? At this point, I have my doubts.

Asdrubal Cabrera ($12) – Cabrera performed decently enough to remain in my starting lineup for the entire season. No, he didn’t pay me back for my $12 investment, but this wasn’t a disaster.

Matt Dominguez ($3) – Complaining about a $3 player might seem silly, but Dominguez continues to be a major OBP liability, which makes his adequate power contributions simply not worth it.

BEST FAAB PICKUPS

Henderson Alvarez ($9) – Nine bucks can’t even buy me a non-fast food dinner here in New York City, but in Tout Wars, it bought me a 2.62 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and nine wins over 17 starts. If you can live with the lack of strikeouts, Alvarez could once again net a profit.

Mark Buehrle ($1) – This one was all about timing, as I benefited from the best part of Buehrle’s season before cutting bait. How does six wins, a 1.68 ERA and 1.16 WHIP across eight starts sound? The veteran southpaw might just be the most boring fantasy option in all of baseball and should be left undrafted in the vast majority of mixed leagues.

Neftali Feliz ($12) – Making his return from Tommy John surgery, Feliz proved that he can still be a dependable big league closer despite the diminished velocity, converting 13 of his 14 save chances while posting a 1.99 ERA and 0.98 WHIP. He will likely open 2015 as the Rangers’ ninth inning man and it would not be surprising to see his strikeout rate improve. In mixed leagues, he’s a solid second closer with some upside.

WORST FAAB PICKUPS

Shawn Kelley ($16) – As a David Robertson owner, this was a purchase I had to make. The good news was that Robertson needed just the minimum 15 days on the DL. The bad news was that the 16 FAAB dollars spent on Kelley bought me only one save. But I’ll take the good news over the bad news any day.

Rafael Montero ($16) – The Mets called up Montero right around the same time they promoted Jacob deGrom. I won Montero for $16. Eventual league champ Derek Van Riper won deGrom for $1. Need I say more?

Last Updated on Sunday, 12 October 2014 09:07
 
Pitching On The Cheap PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 28 September 2014 00:00

As I’ve mentioned numerous times before, I prefer to follow a hitter heavy approach on draft day. Rather than shelling out big bucks on starting pitching, sometimes with the exception of one ace caliber guy, I instead go after bargains, turning my attention to a player’s career stats as opposed to strictly his results from the previous season. In last week’s column, I assembled a team of hitters that could be drafted at a significantly discounted price in 2015. Now, let’s focus on the pitching side.

SP Derek Holland - I’m not saying that Holland will be completely overlooked in drafts next spring, but at the same time, it’s highly likely that he will be undervalued. Don’t make the mistake of forgetting just how good he was in 2013, registering a 3.42 ERA, despite pitching his home games in a hitter-friendly park, while racking up 189 strikeouts. After spending the majority of this season on the DL following knee surgery, the Rangers southpaw returned to action earlier this month and has been absolutely dominant, going 2-0 with a 1.31 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 24-to-4 K/BB ratio through five starts. Unlike a year ago, Holland will go through a normal off-season and will slot in right behind Yu Darvish in the Rangers’ 2015 rotation. Draft him as your fourth or fifth starter in mixed leagues and enjoy the profit.

SP Gerrit Cole – Injuries have limited Cole to 21 starts this season and outside of the strikeouts department, all of his stats have taken a step in the wrong direction. This is good news if you’re planning on targeting him next year. Seriously, how many 24-year-old starting pitchers would sign up for a 3.78 ERA and 1.24 WHIP? As a former #1 overall pick, the kid obviously has tons of talent, and I’m looking forward to seeing what a fully healthy, 200-plus inning campaign could bring.

SP Matt Cain – Maybe I’m letting my emotions overtake my better judgment. Maybe not. Either way, I can’t help it. Cain has been one of my favorite players to own ever since he broke into the big leagues thanks to his durability and consistency. So much for that. 2014 marked the first time since his rookie campaign that Cain has failed to make at least 30 starts in a season, as elbow surgery put a premature end to his year, and it’s not like he was pitching all that well anyway. He also underwent ankle surgery but will be good to go for spring training and will turn 30 later this week, so he’s far from an old man. The extent of the discount for Cain’s services in 2015 remains to be seen, but chances are I’ll be a buyer.

SP Shelby Miller – After putting together a stellar rookie campaign in 2013, Miller has been the model of inconsistency this year. But take a closer look at his stats and you will see that his post-All Star break numbers are outstanding (3-1, 2.92 ERA, 0.99 WHIP). His mediocre strikeout rate is somewhat puzzling, as he whiffed nearly a batter per inning last year. Still though, if he can make modest strides in that area next season, we could once again be talking about a solid mid-rotation fantasy starter. And the best thing is that you’ll be able to draft him for the price of a back end of the rotation guy.

SP Michael Pineda – Sure, the injury risk label will always be there with Pineda, and for good reason. But when healthy, there are few better pitchers in all of baseball, and the results this season have been tremendous. Don’t forget about this Yankee righty when rounding out your staff next year, though it’s possible that you will need to pay full price for him. The Yankees are a fairly popular team, and players on popular teams do not usually fly under the radar.

CL Neftali Feliz – When Feliz took over as the Rangers closer following the trade of Joakim Soria, all the talk was about his diminished velocity and how it was only a matter of time before he would pitch himself out of the ninth inning gig. Not quite. Since the promotion, Feliz has converted 12 of his 13 save chances while posting a 1.77 ERA and 1.03 WHIP. The bottom line is that despite the lower velocity, he’s managed to get the job done, and there’s a decent chance that the velocity will improve with time as Feliz becomes further removed from his Tommy John surgery. Keep in mind that not too long ago, he was a top-10 fantasy closer. Would I be surprised to see him return to that level if given the opportunity? Not at all.

Last Updated on Saturday, 27 September 2014 23:25
 
Lost But Not Forgotten PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 21 September 2014 00:00

When the clock strikes 7:05 PM ET on Monday, my Tout Wars lineup for the final scoring period in the Mixed Auction league will be locked. I’ll have nothing else to do but sit back and hope that my team can at least hold onto its current third place standing. Barring something crazy happening, either Derek Van Riper or Fred Zinkie will come out on top, and although it would have been nice to have a real shot at first place heading into the final week, a finish in the “money” would suit me just fine. I’m proud of my guys, as the vast majority of them either matched or exceeded my expectations.

Every October, I try to take an extended break from fantasy to enjoy watching the postseason from a regular fan perspective. Most of the time, this doesn’t work out too well, as I usually participate in at least one slow mock draft, which forces me to think about rankings and draft strategy for the following year. With the Yankees all but eliminated from playoff contention, I’ll have zero rooting interest this postseason, so I might as well get an early start on thinking about 2015.

One of the first things I do each off-season is look at the pre-season rankings from the previous year in an attempt to spot players who failed to give their owners an equal return on their investment, whether due to injury, poor performance or a combination of both. Eventually, taking into consideration any off-season developments along with where they are being drafted in industry mocks, I’ll decide which of these players I’d like to target at their deflated prices. Here’s an early look at a team of hitters who fit this mold. I’ll cover pitchers next time.

C Wilson Ramos – Injuries continue to plague the Nationals backstop but the power is legit. Better luck in the health department could easily result in a 20-plus HR campaign. Although he won’t be forgotten on draft day, Ramos could slip past the top-12 at the position, at which point he will be a steal.

1B Mark Trumbo – Another victim of the injury bug, a foot injury sidelined Trumbo for almost three months. He was a popular target in drafts last spring, and rightfully so. The low AVG hurts, but a 40-HR season isn’t out of the question now that he’s playing half of his games in homer-happy Chase Field. I’ll be paying close attention to his mock draft ADP. There’s definitely profit to be had here.

2B Jason Kipnis – A consensus top-25 player at this time last year, some owners even chose to use their first round pick on the promising second sacker. Not only has Kipnis missed time this year but the production, outside of the SB category, just hasn’t been there. Still, few players, let alone middle infielders, can match his across the board upside. Chances are he won’t fall too far in drafts, but 2015 could be the last time you can get him at a discount.

SS Jean Segura – Yeah, I did think that Segura was a bit overvalued heading into drafts this year, as he faded badly in the second half of 2013. But did I expect a .238 batting average and only 18 stolen bases through 138 games? Not quite. So, who’s the real Jean Segura? Probably something in between the 2013 and 2014 versions, though I’m starting to think that 2013 will prove to be the outlier. Still, he’s someone who I’d seriously consider scooping up if the price turns out to be as low as I think it will be.

3B Manny Machado – Another 2014 injury casualty, don’t forget that Machado delivered a .283-14-71 line with 88 runs scored and 51 doubles last season. This year, as expected, some of those doubles turned into home runs, as he launched 12 longballs in 82 games. And the best part? He’s only 22 years of age. Draft him outside of the top-10 third basemen and reap the rewards.

OF Bryce Harper – Remember when Harper was placed in the same class as Mike Trout? That seems like a long time ago, but it really wasn’t. To be fair to Bryce though, health woes have played a major role in his inability to come close to meeting the lofty expectations. The good news is that there’s still plenty of time for the 21-year-old to take his game to the next level, and while the name value alone likely ensures that you’ll need to pay a fair price for him on draft day, one of these years, Harper’s fair price will end up being a bargain price.

OF Wil Myers – Thankfully for Myers and his frustrated fantasy owners, the 2014 season is almost over. The reigning AL Rookie of the Year got off to a rough start before fracturing his wrist in late-May, and he has yet to find his stroke since returning to action last month. I’m not concerned. This is a player who has produced at every level. While he might have been a little overrated heading into this season, the situation is the exact opposite right now. Keep an eye on where he’s being drafted as the mock draft season progresses to get a better idea as to the extent of the discount.

OF Shin-Soo Choo – Talk all you want about how Choo was overpaid by the Rangers. In terms of auction dollars, Choo came at a steep cost ($32 in Mixed Auction Tout, which is an OBP league), so there was certainly optimism that he could duplicate, if not improve upon, his stellar 2013 stat line. To put it simply, there’s nothing positive to say about his first year in Texas, as Choo struggled mightily at the plate before elbow surgery put a premature end to his season. Right now, I’m having a hard time valuing Choo for 2015. On the positive end, he’s proven to be a reliable multi-category contributor. But aside from OBP, he doesn’t excel in any one category, and he’s always had trouble versus left-handed pitching, even in his better years.

Tough decision. At least I have all winter to make up my mind.

Last Updated on Saturday, 20 September 2014 22:43
 
Trending Now PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 14 September 2014 00:00

I started playing fantasy baseball in 2001, the tail end of what we now refer to as “The Steroid Era.” It was a 12-team mixed league with only nine starting hitter slots, and although I finished in 9th place that year, I did manage to lead the league in home runs with 284, which comes out to 31.5 homers per slot. At the time, it didn’t seem like an exceptionally high number, but what did I know? I was a rookie. On the pitching side, I wasn’t quite as fortunate, as my 4.41 ERA and 1.36 WHIP ranked 10th and 9th respectively. Only five of the 12 teams finished with an ERA below 4.00. Only five of the 12 teams finished with a WHIP below 1.30. That didn’t seem out of the ordinary, but what did I know about ordinary? I was a rookie.

13 years later, I’m not a rookie anymore, and in hindsight, it’s easy to take the stats from that time period and throw them out the window. The game is different now. It’s more of a pitcher’s game these days. Last season, only two players, Chris Davis and Miguel Cabrera, reached the 40-home run plateau and only five players hit at least 35 homers. Back in my rookie fantasy season of 2001, there were 12 guys with at least 40 longballs. The 35-plus home run club had 24 members. This year, the #24 ranked player in the category has 23 homers with a little more than two weeks to go. But let’s take a shorter term view while shifting our attention back to the fantasy game. Let’s focus on 2012 through 2014, the three years that I have been competing in Mixed Auction Tout Wars.

First, take a look at this table, which compares the median finish (the 8th place total in this 15-team league) in each of the 10 categories over the three seasons. Note that since 2014 is not complete, I’m using the Baseball HQ projected end of season stats as of September 13. Also, since we used AVG rather than OBP in 2012, I’ve left that box empty.


2014
2013
2012






OBP 0.3283
0.3332
           N/A
HR 214
230
252
RBI 853
908
939
R 921
945
983
SB 133
126
159






W 88
89
91
SV 62
76
67
ERA 3.571
3.714
3.829
WHIP 1.2339
1.2463
1.273
K 1334
1284
1285

Pretty convincing stuff, right? Home Runs, RBI and Runs have steadily decreased while the median OBP has also taken a tumble. On the pitching side, both the median ERA and WHIP continue to fall and strikeouts are on the rise.

What if instead of the median number, we used the 3rd place number? A popular strategy when preparing for drafts, particularly auctions, is to construct a roster that, based on projections, can finish in at least 3rd place in all of the categories. Here’s the same table with the 3rd place stats.


2014
2013
2012






OBP 0.3364
0.3388
           N/A
HR 250
250
274
RBI 973
957
1021
R 990
1001
1044
SB 157
167
182






W 100
94
101
SV 109
93
81
ERA 3.273
3.469
3.614
WHIP 1.1815
1.1605
1.2022
K 1387
1367
1340

This one doesn’t correlate quite as well as the first table, particularly when comparing the 2013 and 2014 totals in RBI and WHIP, but of the three seasons, 2012 remains by far the most hitter-friendly.

Whatever the reason, whether it’s tougher PED penalties or improved pitching, particularly in the area of specialty relievers, the bottom line is that home runs are down and offense in general is down. If you plan on placing near the top in the pitching categories next season, lowering your target ERA and WHIP and raising your target strikeout total would be a good idea. Go ahead, spend an extra few dollars to secure that ace pitcher on draft day.

I know I will.

Last Updated on Sunday, 14 September 2014 01:03
 
Study Hall PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 31 August 2014 00:00
For me at least, fantasy baseball draft prep is far more involved and time consuming than preparing for a fantasy football draft. Maybe it’s because I prefer the fantasy baseball game, but I think a bigger reason is that there’s simply more uninterrupted time to prepare. Even if you take October, November and December off, you have roughly two and a half months to indulge in player profiles, projections and mock drafts. And that’s not to mention that those of us in the industry really can’t afford to take October, November and December off, as most of us participate in a number of mocks for various sites and publications.

Football, on the other hand, is a crash course. Sure, there are far fewer players in the standard draft pool, but juggling gridiron prep with managing my baseball squads can become quite challenging. Anyway, the cramming is winding down, and by this Tuesday night, all of my rosters will be complete.

On that note, here’s a look at the players I’ve drafted so far in each of my leagues at the key positions.

QB: Matt Ryan, Tony Romo, Matt Ryan, Drew Brees

Part of my strategy heading into drafts this season was to pass on the elite tier of quarterbacks and instead target the much more affordable 8-12 group, which included guys like Ryan, Romo and Tom Brady. And if they turned out to be too expensive, would I mind settling for Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers or Jay Cutler? Not at all. In my auction leagues, the price drop after the top tier was tremendous. Owners generally do not like to spend more than about $6 for their backup QB, so even in a 14-teamer, a capable starting QB can be had for single-digit dollars. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the only reason why I’m a Brees owner is that he was on a keeper league roster I inherited a few years ago.

RB1: LeSean McCoy, LeSean McCoy, Adrian Peterson, Adrian Peterson

The general consensus among fantasy football pundits this season is that the trend towards more running back by committees has lessened the need to spend big on this position. But, doesn’t that make the truly elite guys who are not part of a committee even more valuable? I slightly prefer McCoy over Peterson, as the 2014 Eagles offense should be just as good, if not better, than last year’s version that trailed only the Broncos in yards per game. However, I do like to change things up a bit in my auctions. Owning the same player on more than two teams isn’t all that fun.

RB2: Shane Vereen, Shane Vereen, Matt Forte, Marshawn Lynch

All of my leagues award points for receptions, hence my infatuation with Vereen, who as long as he stays healthy, makes for a fine RB2 in PPR leagues. And the strange thing is that he’s being undervalued even in those formats. Maybe owners are concerned about the injury risk. I can’t think of any other explanation. As for Forte, I paired him with Peterson as part of a “stars and scrubs” auction plan. I’m not too high on Lynch, as the workload and TD dependency concerns me, but he was clearly the best player available when it was my turn to pick in my only snake draft.

WR1: Antonio Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Vincent Jackson, Alshon Jeffery

The stars and scrubs RB strategy by which I was able to land both Peterson and Forte forced me to settle for Jackson as my WR1. He certainly has WR1 talent, but the consistency just hasn’t been there. I have a feeling that he will be the player who drives me nuts the most. Fitzgerald is another enigma. At 31, he isn’t exactly over the hill, but the QB situation in Arizona with Carson Palmer at the helm is far from comforting. Even Jeffery is a bit risky as a WR1 due to the thin track record.

WR2: DeSean Jackson, Keenan Allen, Julian Edelman, Julian Edelman

Jackson worries me the most of this group, especially for PPR purposes, as Pierre Garcon will continue to serve as Robert Griffin’s top target and Jackson’s career-high 82 catches last year was largely a byproduct of Jeremy Maclin missing the entire season. But as a WR2 in a 14-teamer, DeSean could be decent enough. Edelman is a PPR specialist who will be just fine as a WR2, despite the return of Rob Gronkowski, who is no sure bet to make it through the entire season anyway. Allen should build on his breakout 2013 season, and I’m pumped to own him in a keeper league for the reasonable price of 16 dollars.

TE: Dennis Pitta, Dennis Pitta, Greg Olsen, Dennis Pitta

As you can tell, I like Dennis Pitta a lot this year, and I expect him to be a favorite target of Joe Flacco, particularly in the end zone. Yeah, he’s being drafted as a top-10 TE, but I can easily see him produce like a top-5 guy.

Alright, enough procrastinating. I need to finish preparing for my Tuesday night draft.

Last Updated on Saturday, 30 August 2014 23:28
 
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